1935 Armoured Car in Canadian Service
by Roger V Lucy.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW011
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“Canada in the 1920s and 1930s only had small armed forces, a limited defence budget and equally limited armament production facilities. Despite that attempts were made to adopt new ideas which included mechanisation of infantry and artillery units though the cavalry still retained horses. Plans to buy armoured cars came and went, but in 1932 firm decisions were made and two armoured cars were ordered.
One each were to be built by Ford and Chevrolet using parts available from current production trucks. Patterned on an existing British Crossley design and produced in mild steel not armour plate, they were intended to train units and also to find any problems in manufacturing such vehicles if needed. The first stumbling block was to obtain suitable rear axles as a 6×4 layout was called for and such vehicles were not produced in Canada. The Chevrolet vehicle used a British Leyland unit while the Ford one used a suitable design from its American parent company.
Although very similar in appearance, there were some differences. The Ford car used twin rear wheels while the Chevrolet one used single wheels. Body panels were welded together though it was expected than any production cars would be riveted. Delays in obtaining suitable AFV-pattern Vickers machine guns meant that they were initially used without any armament. Trials showed good and bad points from different mobility in sand and muddy conditions as well as a lack of rain proofing.
By the time trials were completed ideas on armoured car design had moved away from boxy 6×4 designs. Only the two pilot vehicles were built, they served until around mid-1941 when they were superseded and generally disappeared from the records, presumed scrapped.
Although they did not make a big impact on armoured vehicle development – Canadian wheeled AFVs built in WW2 owed little or nothing to them – they are nevertheless interesting vehicles to study in their own right. The author has put together their story from available sources and his account is backed up by period photos, data tables, a breakdown of markings which changed several times in their relatively short lives and a set of 1/35 scale plans which cover the similarities and differences of the two cars.
An unusual subject which not many people will know about, though specialist this is a good account and ideal for someone wanting something out of the ordinary.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”
“Everybody has to start somewhere – that’s somewhat fatuous, but a true statement when you consider how technology became inculcated in modern societies. This little book from Canada, part of the continuing and excellent series from Service Publications, covers a truly obscure armored vehicle which appears to have been the seminal armored vehicle produced in Canada.
During the 1930s, the USA, UK, and Germany were dabbling with new armored vehicle designs, the French were determining the direction in which they wanted to move, and only the USSR was plowing away full steam on developing and building armored vehicles. Canada too decided to dip its toe into the waters of modern armored combat, and the option they chose was the creation of a heavy armored car. It must be noted that it was proposed in 1927, but it was 1932 before any action was taken on that proposal. Mechanization had begun in 1929, and the natural place to turn was to Ford (Canada) and GM (Canada) as they had both the expertise in mechanicals and the production capability to carry this out.
Between 1932 and 1935, both companies proceeded to work on candidate vehicles to meet the proposal for a 6 x 4 heavy armored car armed with two .303 machine guns, and in 1935 prototype designs emerged. Based on a 1931 Crossley 6 x 4 Light Armoured Car design, the chassis chosen were the Ford BB 4 x 4 truck chassis and the Chevrolet Maple Leaf 4 x 4, both of which had a 131″ wheelbase. Input was received from the War Office in London as to designs of some components, specifically the turrets, but the rest was of Canadian design.
While the Ford prototype had no problems in conversion to the dual rear axle (similar to the Ford Model AAA truck design, but using a Sussex bogie modified to become what was called the Warford axle bogie) GM (Canada) did not have a bogie unit, and had to purchase one from Leyland to meet the specifications. Most of the haggling was over price and not technicalities, and the vehicles were deliveredto Petawawa, Ontario, for testing in May 1935.
Both were similar, but the Ford design wound up being a 10 wheel design whereas the GM one used six large “balloon” tires. Both used stub axles with free rolling mounts located between the front wheels and the first bogie axle. Both underwent two years of mechanical testing before their machine guns showed up in 1937, one mounted in the armored windscreen in front of the co-driver and one in the rotating UK designed turret. Both provided valuable information, but were deemed obsolete by 1939. While kept around for training, once the units they were attached to deployed to the UK for wartime service, they seem to have vanished from Canadian service and appear to have been scrapped after 1941.
The concept is interested to compare with the Soviet BA-3/6/10 series armored cars, which used the similar Ford AAA chassis, stub axles, and rotating turret, but with a 45mm gun and coaxial machine gun. These cars were used until 1942 in the west and later in the east, but it shows that the Canadians weren’t that far off the mark in 1935.
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.”